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LIFE AFTER AUSTIN & ALLY, SPEECH & DEBATE, and
A DISTINCT LACK OF LEG WARMERS & SIDE PONYTAILS:
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH LAURA MARANO

Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
May 11, 2016

In the coming of age drama A Sort of Homecoming, high school student Amy (Laura Marano), who was given up for adoption by her biological mother, sees a scholarship through competitive debate as her ticket out of a deadend life in her small Louisiana hometown. Together with her friend and debate partner Nick (Parker Mack), who shares the desire for a new start thanks to his abusive father, she edges closer to a national championship with help from brilliant academic Rosa (Katherine McNamara), who seems to be effortlessly peerless in all her pursuits and was born with an abundance of social advantages. Set in the '80s, A Sort of Homecoming tells the majority of its story in those colorful, shoulder-padded days, but also follows Amy into adulthood (where she is played by Michelle Clunie), which finds her returning to the hometown she ran from when an old friend unexpectedly needs her. The nostalgic reunion awakens its share of ghosts and regrets, and allows Amy to reconcile her past with her future.

Having just finished four successful seasons on the hit Disney Channel sitcom Austin & Ally, actress Laura Marano is set to write a new chapter in her career, with film opportunities and a music project on the horizon. She is off to a furious start, with her first single "Boombox" garnering over 20 million views right out of the gate, and a solo album scheduled for later in the year. A self-admitted studious and bookish soul herself, Laura drew several parallels with Amy to her own life, much as she did with her long-running role of Ally Dawson.

In this exclusive interview, Laura Marano talks about life after Austin & Ally, the experience of working on A Sort of Homecoming, and the film's decision to make itself more timeless than its '80s setting might imply.

A Sort of Homecoming is now available on VOD. Check out the official website.




RadioFree.com: How is life in your post-Ally Dawson world?

LAURA: Oh my gosh, post-Ally Dawson, it's nuts. First of all, can I just say, time passes so quickly! I mean, it's crazy to think it was five years ago. That seems like a huge number, and it seems like just yesterday when I got the pilot for Austin & Ally. You know, I remember auditioning for the role. And I had been doing it, obviously, for a while, and you don't get too attached when you audition because you literally audition for (not exaggerating) hundreds and hundreds of projects. But for Ally, I specifically remember having a connection with her because she seemed so similar to me--she was musically inclined, she was awkward, she loved school, she loved following rules. I loved her. I really did. And I remember thinking I really wanted this part. I read the script and I thought it was hilarious, and I was like, "Oh, this would be amazing!" And so when I found out I got the role, when I found out the pilot got picked up, it was incredible--absolutely incredible. And what's been really cool about Ally is she actually had a character arc--she had this really cool character arc from being really shy and insecure to this confident superstar. So I thought that was an awesome thing for kids. I mean, my favorite thing ever is when different people come up to me at meet and greets and say, "I'm shy just like Ally was, but I hope to be as confident as she was." That literally breaks my heart in the best way. And I think although I'm transitioning and I'm now focusing on other projects, focusing on my music, Ally will, of course, always be a huge part of me. There's no doubt about it.



When were you able to film A Sort of Homecoming?

It fell in the hiatus between the third season and the fourth season, which was my senior year of high school as well, so there was a lot going on. We didn't know that we were coming back for Austin & Ally. We thought the third season potentially was our last, so I was kind of going into A Sort of Homecoming with the potential of this being my first role outside of Austin & Ally being done, and I was very, very excited. And I love New Orleans and Louisiana and filming there. And on top of it all, I definitely had a connection with the story because I did high school speech and debate as a freshman. I couldn't do it when I was working on Austin & Ally, of course, but I love that A Sort of Homecoming was all about that debate world. I thought that was really, really cool.

Did your high school experience prepare you for the procedures and rules of debate, and even the dense, rapid-fire dialogue you have to deliver?

Oh, for sure. I mean, keep in mind, I definitely mostly focused on speech. Speech and debate are together, but definitely different. But I knew all the rules going in, I knew all the different types of debates, [like] Lincoln-Douglas--you have so many different types. And so that was really cool going in with the knowledge beforehand. And even while I was doing the movie, I still learned more and more about it, because [picks up her voice like a cheery after school special] "you can never learn enough about high school debate!"

As a child of the '80s myself, I get to feel old when I watch a movie set in that decade, because it almost feels like a period piece. As someone who grew up in the '90s, what do you associate with the '80s?

[laughs] I think that's an awesome question because, I will say, when I first found out A Sort of Homecoming was taking place in the '80s, the first thing I think of [is] Madonna and Michael Jackson and MTV and side ponytails. I think of leggings and leg warmers, and a little bit of Jane Fonda. Like, that is all my '80s knowledge. [But] A Sort of Homecoming definitely was not in that world at all. [laughs] Amy, my character, really didn't have a crazy different '80s look, you know? She was a pretty natural girl--hair was barely done, barely any make-up. I think if you just took a picture of Amy and asked someone, "What decade do you think this would be in?", I don't think anyone would shout out and be like, "Oh, that is definitely the '80s!" But I kind of like that. When you're born in other decades, you kind of grow up learning about the previous decades and have different aspects of it that might not totally represent the whole decade--like, the '80s definitely had a lot more happening than just side ponytails and leg warmers. [laughs] So I thought it was actually kind of cool that it was a less stereotypical version of the '80s.

You and Katherine McNamara both managed to escape without wearing giant shoulder pads, clown-colored clothes, and obscenely spray canned hair...

Yeah. Amy is very not into hair and make-up. She was a natural girl that was just kind of trying to find herself in high school, you know what I mean? We were going in with that knowledge [that] even if the trend was the crazy hair or the side ponytail, she was not really looking at the trends and focusing on school and focusing on different things. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was like kind of dying to have Farrah Fawcett hair and a little bit of shoulder pad action. [laughs] But I'm happy with the way we took it, because I definitely think for Amy, that wasn't her focus.



Amy likes Top 40 music, while Katherine's character Rosa is more into what was called alternative at the time, like The Smiths and The Cure. What is your favorite type of '80s music?

It's funny, because when I think of The Smiths and The Cure, I think of that as pop culture '80s music. I don't even think of it as "the alternative," [even though] it definitely was. [laughs] But I love The Smiths. I also love myself some Michael Jackson, I love myself some Madonna. I mean, I love all the different bands of the '80s. I think '80s music is one of my favorites, for sure.

Speaking of music, congratulations on your single "Boombox" racking up over 20 million views upon release. Those are blockbuster numbers...

Thank you!

Will we still see you in more film and TV projects going forward?

For sure. Acting is a huge part of my life, and I will definitely continue that part. But right now, definitely my focus is music, and I'm going to be releasing my debut album in the fall. I'm very excited! And "Boombox" has been such an amazing experience, and I'm currently looking at releasing my second single fairly shortly. So that's really awesome and nerve-wracking and exciting. [laughs]

Also, I loved your Princess Rap Battle, in which you played Charlize Theron's Ravenna from The Huntsman: Winter's War. Coincidentally, I watched it right after doing interviews with that cast...

[laughs] Oh my God, that's amazing! Thank you very much, I worked very hard. I will say the hair and make-up people killed it. It was really all them.

Thanks for your time this morning, I really appreciate it. Best of luck with your new world going forward...

Thank you so much, Michael! I hope to speak to you again...Bye!


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